Troubles victims should get special pension payments, campaigners claim
Troubles victims denied the chance to build up a workplace pension due to the extent of their injuries should receive special payments as they enter old age, campaigners have said.
The Wave Trauma centre said around 500 severely injured survivors of conflict violence face living out their latter years on very modest incomes.
The support group has written to MLAs, MPs, church leaders and others to urge them to back their campaign for a special pension for those permanently disabled through no fault of their own.
The issue of a victims pension has failed to achieve political consensus at Stormont due to a stand-off on who should be eligible. Unionists insist paramilitaries who injured themselves in botched terror attacks should not qualify while Sinn Fein argues there should be no hierarchy of victims.
Sandra Peake, the CEO of Wave, said compensation payouts during the Troubles were "wholly inadequate"
"Frankly these people were not expected to live beyond a few years," she said.
"But they have and the passage of time has compounded their problems as many suffer increasing physical distress, as a result of deteriorating health and chronic pain.
"Most of them are moving into old age without the financial security that they otherwise would have had."
Alan McBride, the co-ordinator of Wave's Injured Group, added: "We have had numerous meetings with all the local political parties from 2011 to the present.
"They are all on record as saying they support the idea of a pension for severely injured. But saying they support it is about as far as it has gone.
"Unfortunately the Injured Group have hit a brick wall with regard to the two Executive parties, the DUP and Sinn Fein, who are unable to agree about who is eligible for a pension.
"Everyone of the Injured Group at Wave and the vast, vast majority of the other severely injured have suffered horrendously through no fault of their own".
Mr McBride contrasted the stalled campaign with other publicly-funded projects that have seen money diverted to initiatives involving former paramilitaries.
He said all the injured victims had received was "tea and sympathy".
"If the devolved institutions are, for whatever reason, unable to deliver on this then the Government at Westminster should step in because the plight of the severely injured is as much a legacy of Northern Ireland's past as anything else and it must be addressed because it would be shameful if they were to be left behind," he added.
Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson backed the call.
"The fact that we have not been able to achieve the pension is a profound indictment of how we treat these individuals," she said.